I can’t vouch for the validity of any of the claims made in this new book from Laissez-faire Books, but I confess its publicity material piqued my interest. It argues that inordinate fear of radiation leads to unnecessary and even counterproductive energy policy. As one none-too-keen on radiation in general (stand away from that microwave!), I’m nontheless intrigued by this book’s argument.
An article appeared in Wired News today on the unintended consequences of wind farms. One of these consequences — among many others, I’m sure — is “an astronomical level of bird kills.”
Thousands of aging turbines stud the brown rolling hills of the Altamont Pass on I-580 east of San Francisco Bay, a testament to one of the nation’s oldest and best-known experiments in green energy.
Next month, hundreds of those blades will spin to a stop, in what appears to be a wind-energy first: Facing legal threats from environmentalists, the operators of the Altamont wind farm have agreed to shut down half of their windmills for two months starting Nov. 1; in January, they will be restarted and the other half will be shut down for two months.
Though the Altamont Pass is known for its strong winds, it also lies on an important bird-migration route, and its grass-covered hills provide food for several types of raptors. “It’s the worst possible place to put a wind farm,” said Jeff Miller, a wildlife advocate at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s responsible for an astronomical level of bird kills.”
In July, Anthony Bradley wrote a piece for Acton News and Commentary titled “The Answer is (not) Blowing in the Wind,” which touched on this point. While wind farms can provide a somewhat less polluting energy source, environmentalists now desire that they be placed in areas with the least biological and ecological impact. Good luck. Nature is all around us and it will never be possible to generate energy without impacting the environment. This has been true since cavemen discovered fire. And while the levels of impact vary (I think we can all agree that destroying the ecosystem of a river by dumping heated water from a powerplant is worse than some dead birds), there will always be an impact.
All of this (various examples from the Wired article included environmental impacts on sheep, bats, birds, marine animals, …) begs the question: If we’re going to have to shut down wind farms every other month to protect the environment, is it wasteful stewardship? While wind power may provide some (and by some, I mean very little) alternative energy, if it’s not a consistent source, shouldn’t we be investing in more efficient means of energy production rather than wasting time and space on wind power?
As a side note – another article in Wired suggests that nuclear power (cleaner and more cost effective than coal) can pave the way to efficient and economically driven power generation for the United States.
For a succinct article on governmental processes versus private processes, see this nice little report by Bill Steigerwald. It focues on responses to Hurricane Katrina by private companies and by the city, state, and federal governments. Stories like these need to be circulated more widely.
Any predictions on how this will turn out? All eyes should be watching Japan, whose legislature just approved the privatization of their postal service. (It is important to note that the Japanese postal service is markedly different from ours here in the States.)
It is also a state-owned savings bank with more than $3 trillion (.7 trillion) in assets, making it by some measures the largest financial institution in the world, and the largest provider of life insurance in the country.
Of course, the States have private agencies to compete with the US Postal Service: FedEx and UPS are the two largest (nearly 80% of the express delivery market is held by these two alone–I hesitate to list DHL as a private company; the majority-owner of their parent company, Deutsche Post, is the German government).
Will America ever retire its government post? I think whatever happens in Japan will be an important element in that conversation. But nonetheless, the Japanese move is an important event for all who believe in individual initiative, for more than one reason. But if it does nothing else, the news illustrates why classical liberals ought to be persistent: (now) Prime Minister Koizumi has been calling for this privatization since 1979.
So for all you out there calling for privatization of social security, or education, or __________, buck up; all things come to those who wait–even government-delivered mail.
Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico appeared yesterday on Your World with Neil Cavuto on the Fox News Channel and discussed the president’s nomination of Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O’Connor as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
If you didn’t have a chance to catch the interview live, you can watch it by clicking here (5.2 mb Windows Media file).
A man’s home is his castle, unless of course government officials need his property for a new strip mall or a hotel. Since June, when the U.S. Supreme Court dramatically expanded government’s eminent domain powers, some three dozen states have formulated measures to protect property owners from the Kelo v. New London ruling. Sam Gregg looks at the potential Kelo has to “violate basic norms of justice concerning property.”
Rosa Parks Cicle is a small park in the middle of downtown Grand Rapids. It is often used as a public music venue in the summertime, and an ice skating rink in the winter. Unfortunately, this year it was scheduled to remain closed (like so many parks facilities and pools in the area) due to a citywide budget crunch. Here is where businesses and private individuals step up and take the baton where the local government fails. Two businesses (LaSalle Bank and Centennial Wireless) have written checks to the city, providing the needed funds to run the rink, on a limited basis. The Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation, a tax-exempt organization affiliated with the city’s American Hockey League franchise, will also be providing free skate rentals to those who need them.
While I don’t ice skate very often, every time I do head downtown in the evening to the Rosa Parks Circle. The ice rink is packed with people of all ages skating around and having a great time. From all of us who use the facility, a big thank you to LaSalle Bank, Centennial Wireless, and the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation for your contributions and for keeping skating downtown available to all.